Nathan Cleverly generally beat Andrzej Fonfara to the punch over the first six rounds Friday night in Fonfara’s adopted hometown of Chicago.
From a crouched position, the Englishman jabbed his way in while evenly distributing his punches with both hands. He scored with straight shots and crisp hooks, crosses and uppercuts, and he spread the punishment to the head and body of his 175-pound rival.
One problem, though: Nathan Cleverly took as much as he gave, eating heavy shots from his opponent, much to the delight of pro-Fonfara crowd at UIC Pavilion.
“Cleverly got me with some good punches early,” says Andrzej Fonfara, who trailed 58-56 on two cards entering the seventh, with the third having it 57-57. “But I knew I was a stronger fighter and a better puncher. I knew I could take his combinations and break him down in the later rounds.”
Sure enough, Cleverly’s aggression set him up for The Moment at the 1:25 mark of the of the seventh, when the "Polish Prince” unleashed an almost incomprehensible 34-second, 42-punch battering.
The series transformed Cleverly’s face into a mask of crimson, shattering a nose described as “a faucet of blood” by Spike TV blow-by-blow announcer Scott Hanson.
“That right uppercut broke his nose and was very big in the fight. I tried, maybe too hard, to get the knockout,” Fonfara says. “I have big respect for Nathan. He was ready for this fight, mentally and physically. Cleverly was still a warrior, even though his face didn’t look good after the fight.”
The onslaught began with Fonfara tripling up on hybrid left hook-uppercut combinations—punches that were so effective that the overly aggressive Cleverly was forced into a rare moment of inactivity.
“Cleverly took a lot of good punches in the seventh round,” Fonfara says. “He tried to cover up, moving his head up and down, and trying to go lower and lower. But after the seventh round, I knew I was going to win.”
Cleverly's upper-body movement proved futile, as Fonfara landed every single punch of the series (albeit some were glancing blows). Fonfara used his full arsenal—crosses, hooks and uppercuts—and treated Cleverly’s head like a trained sniper would a paper target, connecting to the point of the chin, middle of the face, top of the head and to either jaw.
Fonfara’s 30th unanswered punch broke Cleverly’s blood-spattering nose at the 1:02 mark—this, after Cleverly had ducked into an explosive right uppercut.
“Andrzej hit Cleverly with his best shots, but he was still standing,” says Sam Colonna, Fonfara’s trainer. “Andrzej figured, ‘I may not knock this guy out, so I’ll just land good shots and win the fight.’”
Fonfara (28-3, 16 KOs) swept the last six rounds on one card and five of the final six rounds on the other. When it was over, he walked away with a unanimous decision, winning 116-112 twice and 115-113.
Meanwhile, Cleverly (29-3, 15 KOs) walked away with newfound respect for his opponent.
“He can really bang—he's not far off [175-pound champ] Sergey Kovalev for power,” says Cleverly, who lost to Kovalev via fourth-round stoppage in August 2013. “I thought I had him until the nose went, and I think without that, I could’ve gotten the win.”
Fonfara set division records for punches attempted (1,413) and landed (474), while Cleverly’s 462 shots landed rank second all time. Combined, the two sluggers connected on 936 of 2,524 punches—both CompuBox records.
“Andrzej was more effective when he backed Cleverly up and kept the distance, but Cleverly had a pretty good game plan early on, smothering Andrzej and taking his power away,” says Dominic Pesoli, Fonfara’s promoter. “There were a lot of close rounds, but I think the turning point in the fight was when Andrzej broke his nose.
“I thought Andrzej would stop him, but Cleverly’s a tough kid.”
For complete coverage of Fonfara vs Cleverly, check out our fight page.